Five Favorite Baltimore County Development Hot Spots
The locales for development have one thing in common: the potential for retail to boost other asset classes like office, residential, and MOB. That's what we learned at Bisnow's Baltimore County Summit last week, where panelists revealed their favorite places to develop.
After years of competing ideas about what’s best for Owings Mills, panelists David S. Brown Enterprises chairman Howard Brown and Greenberg Gibbons CEO Brian Gibbons appeared on the same stage before an audience of 225 at the North Baltimore Plaza Hotel. We framed our picture to enhance the drama, but the pair actually joked about cuddling to keep warm in the chilly conference room. Both men have been champions of Owings Mills’ potential for improvement—Howard via the 7M SF to rise on his 45-acre, master-planned Metro Centre at Owings Mills and Brian by his firm’s and Vanguard Equities’ replacement of the 1.8M SF of Solo Cup warehouses with the 400k SF of retail-and-office Foundry Row.
Thirty-five years ago, Howard’s father bought plots in Owings Mills' Oheb Shalom Memorial Park cemetery. Howard asked why, considering his grandparents are buried in the city. Dad figured Howard would be busy in Owings Mills for years to come, and it’d be easier for son to visit father this way. Dad was right; it may have taken 35 years, but the 1,700 apartments, 1.2M SF of office, retail, a hotel, educational facilities, and 3M SF of parking are getting going.
Howard says 5,000 parking spaces across two structures are done, the 120k SF Owings Mills Learning Center (with a public library and Community College of Baltimore County locale) is up. Next will be 232 apartments and 50k SF of retail called Metro Crossing and 170k SF of spec office. Howard also is pursuing a 225-key, full-service hotel with 10k SF of ballroom space (it’ll be Owings Mills’ first high-rise), and he’s marketing 600k SF of build-to-suit office space, especially to State agencies, as Gov. Martin O’Malley has mandated that TODs get priority for any Maryland RFI.
Metro Centre, with its highway access, will be Owings Mills’ town center, Brian says, while Foundry Row will be the gateway to Owings Mills from the Reisterstown Road retail corridor. Construction has started, and the anchors will receive their pads in July. Greenberg Gibbons is negotiating with an office tenant for the 40k SF of office and hopes to close a deal in six months. The project’s retail amenities are a plus for the office tenant, he says, and both Foundry Row and Metro Center’s retail amenities should help lower Owings Mills’ 18% office vacancy rate.
AvalonBay Communities owns plenty in the Baltimore area, but it’ll break ground on its first ground-up development in the area by the end of the year at Greenberg Gibbons’ Hunt Valley Towne Centre, says AvalonBay DC and Baltimore head John Cox (whom we snapped with our moderator, CohnReznick’s Adam Kleeman). The metro area appeals to his company because it exhibits positive job growth (employment is flat in DC), and Hunt Valley is attractive because no new apartments have risen there in 40 years, not to mention Greenberg Gibbons’ complementary retail offerings. There is definitely a place for high-density housing in the suburbs, he says, when retail development accompanies it.
Cordish’s Towson Square is embracing and trying to advance the area’s walkability, but the town core is vastly underutilized, says the company’s Taylor Gray. Someone could assemble parcels from the single-story buildings and auto shops and “do something spectacular,” he says, adding that Baltimore County needs a big idea like Baltimore City has in the Inner Harbor.
Frederick Road could use some city-to-Beltway development like York and Reisterstown roads, says Solstice Partners’ Jeff Jacobson. His company will deliver a 14k SF MOB at 910 Frederick Rd in two weeks. Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland had asked for a site outside the Beltway on a Baltimore City artery in a walking community with amenities between Woodlawn and Glen Burnie. Such a place doesn't exist, but this site came close. Catonsville Gourmet and Bark pet goods store nearby provide some amenities, but the area has some progress to make on walkability and amenities. In five or 10 years, though, once the City-to-Beltway gap fills in, real estate folks will want to do retail on Frederick, he says.
Eastern Baltimore County
Enterprise Homes CEO Chickie Grayson, who this month became the first woman to win a ULI Baltimore Lifetime Achievement Award at the WaveMaker Awards, says the mayor’s administration and the two previous have done good work changing the tenor in eastern Baltimore County, but its reputation has yet to catch up. She points out that the area offers lots of waterfront, and that means live/play opportunities.